QUEBEC—The Bella Desgagnés is on its way to Canada.
The brand new ship was commissioned by Groupe Desgagnés Inc, a company that operates cargo and passenger services for Quebec ports along the St Lawrence—specifically Rimouski, Sept-Iles, Havre-Saint-Pierre and Natashquan—and the communities they serve: Port-Menier, Kegaska, La Romaine, Harrington Harbour, Tête-à-la-Baleine, La Tabatière, Saint-Augustin and Blanc-Sablon.
Groupe Desgagnés president, Louis-Marie Beaulieu said the Bella is “a mixed-use vessel. It’s a container cargo vessel plus passenger vessel. The ship will be used for service on the North Shore of Quebec where they don’t have a road. So on the passenger side the ship will be used for residents and tourists, plus the cargo they need for their life there.”
The new vessel will be able to carry a total of 125 cargo containers, and 381 passengers. There are also 72 cabins with room for 160 people.
Although the North Shore docks don’t have the ro-ro infrastructure, the Bella will still be able to transport cars to and from the islands.
“Cars are put in containers and loaded on board in containers to protect the vessel because the dock on the North Shore doesn’t have installations for roll-on roll-off ships. We have to lift the containers on the vessel and unload the containers on the dock,” said Beaulieu.
According to Beaulieu, Groupe Desgagnés has two main types of cargo customers.
“First are the regular merchants in the villages on the North Shore. Their orders for food or products normally come in two or three weeks before. Also, we have customers that are last minute. They want to buy something and put it on board the vessel.”
Because small communities and small merchants typically mean small orders, Groupe Desgagnés has put systems in place to ensure its cargo shipments are handled efficiently.
“At each village we have a warehouse where we can receive the cargo. We containerize the cargo ourselves. We put small parcels of cargo in the containers to fill them for each village—12 warehouses for the 12 villages we serve each week.”
Currently, the Nordik Express is serving the North Shore route, but it has half the capacity of the Bella.
The Bella Desgagnés was built in Croatia, but was sent to Italy for interior finishing work and testing. It will stop in Halifax to clear Customs and get restocked, then it will proceed to Blanc-Sablon. It is expected to dock there on April 7.
“Starting in Blanc-Sablon on April 8, the Bella Desgagnés will begin a familiarization trip and offer visits in all ports of the Middle and Lower North Shore as well as in Port-Menier, and then will head to Sept-Iles where she is to be christened on April 15,” said Beaulieu. The Bella will begin its regular service runs on April 29.
As for her name, Beaulieu bestowed that on the ship himself.
“One morning I was looking for a name. When I saw her I said ‘it’s a nice ship so we’ll call her Bella.'”
Italian in origin, “bella” usually translated as “beautiful”.
The Bella encountered severe weather conditions while crossing the Atlantic, resulting in a delayed arrival. Now it is expected to arrive in Halifax, Nova Scotia on April 9. Then it will proceed to Blanc-Sablon where it will start its familiarization tour of the area. The ship’s delayed arrival means the christening will be pushed back until a later date.
The Bella’s progress can be followed on Group Desgagnés’ ship tracking website.